Countywide officials enjoy 5 percent increase
Most countywide elected officials will get a 5 percent pay raise, effective immediately, after a Dorchester County Council vote Monday.
Not included in the pay raise is Probate Court Judge Mary Blunt, who is paid more than Berkeley County’s probate judge and about $28,000 more than statutorily required.
Councilman Jay Byars said he thought Blunt shouldn’t be included because the pay raises for the other officials were meant to make their positions competitive and bring their pay up to a median level, whereas the probate judge position is already paid competitively.
Auditor J.J. Messervy, on the other hand, will get a raise of 9.5 percent to bring his salary in line with Treasurer Mary Pearson’s.
The county pays the least to the auditor and treasurer -- $49,123 and $53,085, respectively, before the pay raise – because they receive a supplement of $20,418 from the state.
They will each now receive $55,739 from the county.
The other countywide elected officials – clerk of court, sheriff, coroner and register of deeds – will get the 5 percent.
Each of those positions received a 2.8 percent cost of living increasing in January 2012, as did all county employees.
Council’s decision differed from the initial recommendation that came out of the human resources department, which was for a 6 percent raise plus bonuses to some elected officials, including a $4,000 bonus for the clerk of court.
The clerk of court’s pay has increased consistently, Byars said.
It was $69,348 in January 2008 and is now $76,613.
Clerk of Court Cheryl Graham spoke briefly to the administrative committee, asking again that it consider longevity pay for elected officials as well as employees.
Though employee pay wasn’t up for discussion, employee compensation and the now-discarded Lockton study have become intertwined in discussions of elected official pay.
At the previous council meeting, Graham told council the Lockton study clearly intended to compensate people based on years with the county, not years in position.
She said then she has employees who have been with the county since the 1980s and 1990s whose pay is frozen.
Councilman Willie Davis took exception to the mindset that longevity automatically equals more pay.
If you’re a dog catcher, and the maximum pay for a dog catcher is $40,000, then that’s the most you’ll be paid, he said.
“I don’t care how long you are there. Forty thousand is the cap,” he said Monday.
Councilman David Chinnis said in an interview Lockton only used total years because the county told the company it didn’t have data on years in position.
Davis also took up that point at Monday’s meeting.
“Here we’re blaming Lockton and Lockton didn’t get the information,” he said.
The county has made progress since he first came onto council in 1990 in properly aligning pay scales, he said.
It’s not perfect, but it’s better, he said. But department heads need to be doing employee evaluations, he said.
Chinnis, too, said the county should have been doing annual reviews all along. It’s a task that’s simply part of being a manager, and something every private organization he’s worked for has done, he said.
To say the reviews aren’t done because there’s no money available for raises is a cop-out, he said.
The county has an employee evaluation process in place; it’s been used in the past and this year, but apparently not consistently.
Further, Chinnis said, the county managed to get through the worst financial times most people have seen without firing or furloughing any employees.
After the countywide cost of living increase in January 2012, in January 2013 council approved $391,000 in “range penetration” increases to adjust individual employees’ salaries to better reflect experience and education.
The pay for countywide elected officials, prior to the 5 percent increase:
Auditor: $69,541 (includes state supplement)
Clerk of Court: $76,613
Register of Deeds: $67,544
Treasurer: $73,503 (includes state supplement)